Saturday, March 26, 2011

Clara Engel -- "Madagascar" (2009) (part 2 of 2)

You could take me down 
With one touch of your scorn 
Your kiss like a whip 
Your caress full of thorns 
Desire desirous 
Pleasure that tears itself apart

In the first part of this post, I talked about the lyrics of "Madagascar."  Now let's talk a little about the music.

"Madagascar" -- which is track 6 on Clara's 2009 album, Secret Beasts -- is musically very different from "Accompanied by Dreams."  (Click here for a different video of Clara performing that song.)

"Madagascar" is mostly just Clara Engel's voice and percussion -- although there's some guitar and even a little trumpet.  The drums sound somewhat tribal -- as in African -- which is appropriate given where the angels hail from.  But Clara does other songs where she is accompanied by similar drums.

Clara Engel
Clara sings the first verses quietly, although she sings with considerable intensity.  She doesn't really start to cut loose until about two minutes into the song, when the first chorus begins.

There are two brief post-chorus bridges where Clara wails wordlessly to a noisy and dissonant instrumental accompaniment.  The second one of these passages -- which begins at about 3:35 -- is real possessed-by-spirits stuff that is almost certainly going to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  

The volume then gets turned down and the song closes as quietly as it began with a repeat of the first six lines -- it's just Clara's singing and some drums.  

I might have ended the song after that second chorus/bridge, when both the volume and the emotional intensity were at peak levels.  (To borrow a joke from This Is Spinal Tap, on a scale of one to 10, "Madagascar" hits 11 here.)  I understand why Clara wanted to repeat the first verse -- it's a really good verse, and there's got to be a temptation to sing it again to make sure your listeners get it.  

In addition, it enables her to come down slowly from that second chorus/bridge and allow the audience's heart rates to return to normal levels.  Perhaps ending the song as abruptly as I've suggested -- with the drums pounding and the horns blasting and Clara wailing -- would have been too shocking.

"Secret Beasts" cover
We just had a close call, boys and girls.  If Clara hadn't e-mailed me, I probably would have never heard this song.  It's a little discouraging to realize how much good music I'm missing out on today, not to mention all the music from 10 years, or 20 years, or 30 years ago that I overlooked at the time and will likely never stumble across in the future.  

The same is true for books, of course -- and movies.  And women, too, of course.  Life is just too short.  You barely have time to scratch the surface. 

But let's look on the bright side.  Kismet brought Clara Engel's music to me, and now I'm bringing it to you.  Let's look at the glass as half full, not half empty.  In the words of the old hymn, let's "count our blessings, name them one by one."

And now that the hymn is over, it's time to pass the collection plate.  Remember that stuff at the beginning of this post about your having a chance to become a patron of the arts?

Here's how Clara described life as an independent musician to another blogger:
I’m independent, yes. I am working with two small labels right now . . . . In terms of business, at the moment, I’m horribly broke and can’t afford to record. 
Music scenes, and maybe all art ‘scenes’ are usually run by nepotism. [Note: I'm think she's talking about "cronyism" more than "nepotism."]  If you don’t know the right people, and you aren’t good at mingling and social climbing, you become isolated. No one will hear you, no one will book you. It doesn’t matter how strong your material is. . . .
The people who buy my music online mostly live in Europe and in the USA. I’ve experienced such kindness, support, and generosity from my online listeners -- it’s amazing. But it’s a hard balance, and a huge job: marketing oneself and creating. I want to devote my time and energy to my work, not to promoting myself on Twitter. That just seems like a waste of my mental resources.
I do value my independence, artistically speaking -- I would never ever want to be bound to a label that put limits on my creativity or withheld any of my output. I am my own boss. I will always be independent in that sense. I don’t have a desire to be rich, but I would love to be a self-sustaining indie artist, and I’m still in the process of figuring out how to do that.
I want to single out two of the things she said:

1.  "I’m horribly broke and can’t afford to record."

2.   "I want to devote my time and energy to my work, not to promoting myself on Twitter. That just seems like a waste of my mental resources."

And here's something else she said without coming right out and saying it:

3.  Clara LOVES music and nothing is going to stop her from creating it.  (I love music, but I don't think I LOVE it -- given the way I've lived my life, I must love other stuff more.)

One way to support Clara's music is to go online and buy one of her albums -- or at least buy a couple of her songs.  Here's a link to her web store.  (Some of her stuff is available on iTunes and Amazon, so you can buy from them if you prefer.  But quite a few of her songs are only available through her web store, and don't iTunes and Amazon have enough money already?)

You can use this link to listen to and then buy "Madagascar."  (It only costs a dollar, for cryin' out loud.  Archduke Rudolf had to give Beethoven thousands of crowns, or florins, or thalers, or whatever they called Benjamins back in the day.  Of course, he did get his name on the Fourth Piano Concerto.)  

But there's an even better way to become Clara's patron.  Click here and you'll be taken to Clara's Kapipal page.  

I had never heard of Kapipal until now.  It's what is called a "crowd funding" site that enables you to create a web page where friends and strangers can contribute money to you or to your cause.  Maybe you want to raise money for earthquake relief in Japan, or you need help to pay for your wedding -- or for a new music album you hope to record -- so you post a link to your Kapipal page on Facebook or whatever and hope that your friends and family come through.

Click here to learn more about Kapipal.

Any money that you send to Clara via Kapipal is going to help pay for the recording and editing of her new album.  I'm giving you a chance to assist in the creation of a work of art -- and if Clara's work to date is any indication, it will be a very original and very provocative work of art as well.

There are several ways to go here.  You can donate as little as $10 and Clara will list your name in the album credits.  But for $15, you'll get a download of the album.  And for $30, you'll get not only a free download but also a CD of the album, which Clara will autograph for you.

Clara figures that if she can raise only $3000, she can produce her new album.  That's not a lot of money -- it doesn't sound to me like you have to worry about your contributions being wasted on chaffeur-driven limos or cocaine.  

If you like "Madagascar," this is a no-brainer.  But even if you don't know what in the hell to make of "Madagascar," that doesn't mean you can't help a sister out.  

So you can do the right thing, or you can just turn the page -- or, in this case, close your browser.  I hoping that a few of you will decide to help Clara get to her goal.

Once again, here's a video of Clara performing "Madagascar" live:

(By the way, Madagascar -- an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa -- is the 4th largest island in the world.  Not counting Antarctica and Australia -- which are usually considered continents, the four biggest islands in the world are Greenland, New Guinea, Borneo, and Madagascar.  Madagascar is slightly larger than France and quite a bit larger than California, and has a population of 20 million people, which is more than New York and almost as many Texas. ) 


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